It's fair to say that the band's fifth album proper, recorded at its own Drugstore studio, has received a bit of a mauling from some critics. Don't believe them. It's gorgeous. Pre-publicity had it marked out as an acoustic album, but it's as much Plugged-in as Unplugged, with electric guitar on all but one track. It's just that they've taken their feet off the overload pedals.
Underneath the lighter dynamics lurk the archetypal Mary Chain preoccupations: drugs and kisses, guns and lies, 'dirty little stories about needles and skin', as they put it in the shockingly New Order-ish 'Girlfriend'. Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval plays Nancy Sinatra to Jim's Lee Hazlewood on the Sixties-summery 'Sometimes Always', while Shane MacGowan, with his sad, broken drawl, plays a man at the end of his tether (surprise, surprise) on 'God Help Me'. The brothers have eschewed the fashionable un-compact habit of packing the plastic with what should have been out-takes: at 17 tracks in 49 minutes, there's nothing that wouldn't have made it on to vinyl. The songwriting is as good as anything since the feedback-soaked splendour of their first LP, Psychocandy. For me, perhaps nothing will ever match the purgatorial squeals of their first single, 'Upside Down', but this will do nicely.
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